NFL Nation: Navorro Bowman

San Francisco 49ers All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is “at a real good place” in his recovery, general manager Trent Baalke told reporters at Levi’s Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

Bowman
Bowman missed all of last season while recuperating from the devastating left knee injury -- he tore his ACL and MCL -- suffered during the NFC Championship Game following the 2013 season.

And while the Niners hoped and anticipated Bowman would only miss about half of the 2014 season, Baalke insisted there was never a setback.

“It was just a matter of what’s the best decision for him, long term, at that time,” Baalke said. “And that’s the decision we made.”

Speculation swirled Monday morning that Bowman’s knee had not responded and that he, not the retiring Patrick Willis, would be the one to leave Santa Clara, a possible cut if he failed a physical.

Last season, Bowman told reporters he would not speak about the injury until he got back on the field.

The Niners, though, expect Bowman back, just as they did last year, with his rehab going well, according to Baalke.

“You can tell he’s working,” Baalke said. “I think he feels good. He’s really starting to feel like it’s coming back to where he wants it. And that’s always the most important thing.

“I think he’s at a real good place now.”

Similar thoughts were expressed last fall, but time, and rehab, has a certain healing property.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – While the 21-day evaluation window on NaVorro Bowman was opened Tuesday, the All-Pro inside linebacker did not practice Wednesday for the San Francisco 49ers.

And that, actually, was expected.

Bowman
"Today, he's doing his rehab on the field and in the training room and weight room," coach Jim Harbaugh said before the 49ers hit the practice field.

Asked if he expected Bowman, who suffered a devastating injury to his left knee in the NFC title game Jan. 19, to do any team drills this week, Harbaugh was succinct.

"I don't expect that today," he said. "Probably not this week, no."

The 49ers have an interesting decision to make regarding Bowman. Because if he's nowhere near 100 percent healed, and the team loses a game or two within the next three weeks, why risk bringing him back for a potentially lost season?

But if he's close, and the Niners remain in the playoff hunt and they think he's the missing piece to a Super Bowl run, he could be activated.

49ers vs. Broncos preview

October, 17, 2014
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Prime time is the right time for a game between teams that entered the season at the front of the Super Bowl conversation.

At least that is how Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. sees it.

"You face any other top teams in the league, you always want to get up for them," Harris Jr. said. "It’s Sunday night prime time, so we want to have a good showing. We want to go out there and show we’re definitely a contender, definitely one of the top teams. ... They have a great team; they’ve been together for a while, so they know how to play together in these big games."

The San Francisco 49ers will be the fifth team the Broncos (4-1) have played this season that won at least 10 games in 2013 -- "we’ve had a salty schedule," is how Broncos coach John Fox has put it -- and the 49ers (4-2) own the only win against the Dallas Cowboys this season and have won three in a row.

ESPN's 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss the matchup:

Legwold: Paul, it seems, at least from the outside, like there has been plenty of turmoil this season with reports 49ers players are tuning Jim Harbaugh out and that Harbaugh won’t return after this season. What’s the mood in the locker room? And how do you think Harbaugh interacts with the team?

Gutierrez: It’s important to note that most, if not all, of these reports have come from national reporters, particularly from a certain league-owned media outlet. And to the conspiracy theorist in me, that means the leaks are coming from within the 49ers and above Harbaugh’s pay grade. As I’ve said before, Harbaugh likes to make his players uncomfortable because he believes that brings out the best in them. I wonder if that same mentality is being thrust upon Harbaugh’s coaching skills. As far as the locker room goes, to a man and on the record, the players say they have Harbaugh’s back, with quarterback Colin Kaepernick saying he would go to "war" with his coach. And technically, Harbaugh still has a year left on his deal. It’s just that talks of extension have been tabled until after the season. It has made for a wild ride thus far, no doubt, and Harbaugh has made a point to wander through the locker room to chat with players during media access periods during the week.

Speaking of bedside manner, Fox has been seen as a folksy players' coach from yesteryear, at least, to the outsider. How much of his personality has rubbed off on the players, and is that a reason the Broncos have been able to shake off the sting of last February’s Super Bowl disaster?

Legwold: When Fox missed four games last season because of heart valve surgery, the word most of the players, as well as the coaches on Fox’s staff, used to describe what was missing while Fox was away was "energy." Those who have worked with him say Fox’s greatest attribute, beyond the on-field work, is giving those in the organization the belief their job is an important part of the process, no matter where the job fits within the organization. Yes, the Broncos have won plenty of games along the way, and having Peyton Manning at quarterback is a spectacular starting point for any head coach, but Fox has support in the locker room, in the executive offices, and a contract extension signed this past offseason. That said, he has also been the guy in charge when the Broncos have come up short, and in the case of the Super Bowl, 35 points short.

Moving toward the field, how have the 49ers' wide receivers helped Kaepernick?

Gutierrez: At first, it was a hot mess. The 49ers seemed to forget they were a team built on a power running game, and Kaepernick looked out of sorts with all of the shiny toys at his disposal, with Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd joining Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin as wideouts, and tight end Vernon Davis. Then, about Week 4, the 49ers rediscovered their identity behind running back Frank Gore and, voila, the passing game blossomed. This past week, Kaepernick threw three touchdown passes to three different wideouts without an interception. Crabtree might be his favorite receiver, and Lloyd has become his most explosive down the left sideline, but Boldin is his Mr. Dependable underneath. It is, without a doubt, helping Kaepernick’s maturation process. Especially since there does not seem to be any selfishness going on with the receivers. Just healthy competition. At least, that’s how it looks when the team is winning.

Manning, meanwhile, does not seem to have missed a beat after losing receivers Eric Decker to the New York Jets and Wes Welker to injury. Is Manning simply so good that he elevates the play of those around him, or is it a scheme thing in Denver?

Legwold: In all that Manning has done in his career, the fact he has lifted his play to its current level following spinal fusion surgery in 2011 -- his fourth neck surgery -- is a remarkable achievement. The guy has started 37 games for the Broncos and thrown 107 touchdown passes in those games. The offense was built for him; he runs it with complete freedom to change any call to any play at any time. And at this stage of his career, with his work habits, he might think the game better than anyone who has played the position. But all of that said, there is a perfect-storm effect in Denver as well. Adam Gase is an innovative risk-taker as an offensive coordinator who paid his coaching dues to earn his spot. Receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas are elite players, Welker is routinely called the best slot receiver in the NFL by opposing coaches, and in his time with Manning, Emmanuel Sanders will go from a player folks thought was pretty good to Pro Bowl worthy. So Manning has been very good for the Broncos, and the Broncos, with Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway calling the personnel shots for the team, have built a quality landing spot for Manning.

Some teams have been aggressive coming after Manning with the blitz, like the Cardinals, while the Jets consistently dropped eight into coverage last weekend. How do you think the 49ers will approach it?

Gutierrez: Let’s just say, both ways. Yes, the 49ers brought the house against the St. Louis Rams’ Austin Davis, sacking him five times (the total doubled the 49ers’ season sack total to 10) and pressuring him on 44 percent of his dropbacks (a season high for the 49ers), but, as you know, Manning loves it when teams blitz him. His 2.25-second release is the second best in the league, again, per our friends at ESPN Stats & Info. Yet, his 92.8 total rating when not pressured since joining Denver in 2012 is the league’s best, and the 49ers rank 23rd in pressure percentage. So yeah, the best way to affect Manning is by bringing pressure. Just pick your poison in doses, I guess, right? What might make it all a moot point is the potential loss of All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis, who injured a toe Monday night. We’re talking about a linebacker corps already missing the suspended Aldon Smith and the recuperating NaVorro Bowman.

Manning, who needs two touchdown passes to tie Brett Favre's career record (508), always comes across as disinterested in records and his legacy. But surely, holding the passing touchdown record would mean something to him, right? How important do you think holding the mark would be to him?

Legwold: This is all something he will have to get used to as many of these records approach, especially if he plays one or two more seasons following this one. Certainly his legacy is important to him, but it gets lost sometimes because he is so competitive. People talk about his intellect and his ability to digest information and recall things he has seen in his career. But it would be impossible to play as many consecutive games as he played before his spinal fusion surgery kept him out of the 2011 season (208 consecutive regular-season games) and to push himself as hard as he does if he were not one of the most competitive people in the game. So, in that vein he wants Super Bowls and knows his career clock is winding down. So, though the records will be something he respects, and at some point enjoys, his desire to play for a Super Bowl champion trumps everything right now, including the touchdown mark.

Bowman sprinting through rehab?

September, 11, 2014
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Having started the season on the physically unable to perform list while he rehabilitates from the devastating left knee injury he suffered in the NFC title game, San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman has to sit out at least the first six weeks of the season.

Bowman could be in a game as soon as Week 7, at the Denver Broncos, or as late as Week 15, at the Seattle Seahawks, if he is to be eligible for the playoffs.

The 49ers have always asserted he would return around midseason.

But based on a tweet Bowman sent out Thursday, he is making progress.



Bowman tore both the ACL and MCL in his knee after Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse landed on him at about the 49ers’ 1-yard line on a play in which Bowman stripped Kearse of the ball midway through the fourth quarter on Jan. 19.

Patrick Willis, who moved over to play Bowman’s 'MIKE' linebacker position in the 49ers' 3-4 defense, told reporters Thursday that Bowman was coaching him up on the sideline in Sunday's season-opening victory at the Dallas Cowboys.

"He was there to help me on a play, or critique me, or get me better," said Willis, who had six tackles and an end-zone interception against the Cowboys. "I'm all about positive help. If I'm doing wrong, then tell me, too.

"It was good to have him on the sideline being those eyes for me."
Most significant move: It was already known that All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman would miss half of the season after his gruesome left knee injury in the NFC title game last January, but it was made official with Bowman being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Monday. As such, he has to sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. At the end of that sixth week, Bowman then has three weeks to begin practicing and once he does get on the practice field, he has three weeks to join the active 53-man roster. In short, Bowman could be in a game as soon as Week 7 at the Denver Broncos and as late as Week 15, at the Seattle Seahawks, to be eligible to play in the postseason.

Wild card: Marcus Lattimore entered training camp fully expecting to be practicing after missing all of last season recovering from the injury to his right knee suffered in 2012. Alas, he never made it. Now, being placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, Lattimore must sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. Still, coach Jim Harbaugh insisted earlier this summer that Lattimore would be a part of this team this season. And with Jewel Hampton waived, you wonder if the 49ers are holding an active spot for him down the road.

49ers’ cuts: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, S D.J. Campbell, TE Kevin Greene, RB Jewel Hampton, P Colton Schmidt, LB Kion Wilson, WR Devon Wylie all waived while WR David Reed was released. RB Marcus Lattimore, FB Trey Millard, CB Keith Reaser and G Brandon Thomas placed on reserve/non-football injury list and LB NaVorro Bowman, TE Garrett Celek and DT Kaleb Ramsey were put on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Also, LB Blake Costanzo was released from injured reserve.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The pick: Chris Borland, inside linebacker, Wisconsin.

My take: The San Francisco 49ers are having quite the day. Borland, like Carlos Hyde and Marcus Martin, can help right away. He was a star at Wisconsin. He is a durable tackle machine and was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He may be able to help with star NaVorro Bowman out for the first half of the season with a torn ACL. Borland should be a fine backup to Bowman and Patrick Willis in the next few seasons and then perhaps play more. Willis turns 30 next year.

Not a typical Baalke pick: 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is famous for gravitating to players with long arms. The knock on Borland is his short arms.

What's next: Two more picks tonight -- No. 94 and No. 100. Cornerbacks and receivers anyone? Hello?
PITTSBURGH -- Mock drafts have, predictably, been all over the place as far as the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick. Most, however, have them taking a wide receiver or a cornerback No. 15 overall, assuming they don’t try to trade down.

I think those two positions are most likely the ones the Steelers will target with their first pick, though North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could also be in play if he slides a little in the draft.

Ebron
Ebron is the No. 1 player at one of the few positions that is not particularly deep, and he would give the Steelers a tall receiver while also filling a long-term need. I think Heath Miller has at least three good seasons left in him, but the Steelers have to plan for the post-Miller years at some point.

If Ebron is still available when they make the first pick, I think they give him serious consideration, especially if a couple of cornerbacks are already off the board, as well as Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The Steelers have eight other picks in the draft, three of which are compensatory selections, including one at the end of the third round. They have a lot of needs -- or as general manager Kevin Colbert would frame it "wants" -- particularly on defense.

Here is my projection of the positions they will address with their nine picks, which is contingent on the Steelers not adding extra ones through a trade.

Cornerback (2): The Steelers could use immediate help here, and they don't have a long-term starter at cornerback after third-year man Cortez Allen. I would be surprised if they don't draft two cornerbacks, with one of them coming in the first three rounds. They drafted two cornerbacks in 2011, including Allen in the fourth round.

Defensive line (2): The Steelers will draft a defensive lineman as early as the second round -- ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has them taking Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III with their second pick in his latest mock draft -- and they need to take at least one end. The signing of Cam Thomas gives them a player with position flexibility, but the Steelers' need at defensive end is every bit as glaring as it is at cornerback.

Wide receiver (1): No position is deeper in the draft, and even if the Steelers don't address it in the first round, they can still get a good prospect later. The Steelers probably won't get a chance to draft Evans unless they trade up in the first round and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin may be too much of a risk to take at No. 15. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. has been linked to the Steelers in various mock drafts, and they could pull the trigger on him if they have him high on their board.

Linebacker (1): The Steelers have to take a player who projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme given how thin they are at the position. It will be interesting to see what they will do if Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is still on the board at No. 15. Mosley, who projects as an inside linebacker, may be one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft. “He and (Lawrence) Timmons could be your (NaVorro) Bowman and (Patrick) Willis,” ESPN analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson said. If the Steelers take Mosley, they will also draft an outside linebacker later in the draft.

Safety (1): The Steelers have hosted at least three safeties for pre-draft visits, including Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, a projected first-round pick. The signing of Mike Mitchell makes it unlikely the Steelers take a safety in the first round but it wouldn't hurt to add another younger player here. The question is whether it makes sense for them to draft a safety -- or instead sign a couple of undrafted free agents -- if they don’t take one in the second or third round.

Offensive line (1): I don't see this as the need that others do. The Steelers got their upgrade up front when they hired Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line and he has plenty of material with which to work. All five starters return, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who tore his ACL eight snaps into last season. And the Steelers have depth up front after re-signing Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper. The Steelers will probably take a lineman they can develop later in the draft, but I could also see them not drafting one for the second year in a row if they take two linebackers or a tight end.

Running back (1): The Steelers need depth and they could use a speedster to complement Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. The de-valuing of running backs allows the Steelers to wait until later in the draft to address the position and still get a good prospect. I don't see them taking a running back before the fifth round.
Last month, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team could look at some veteran inside linebackers as star NaVorro Bowman recovers from a torn ACL in his knee. Bowman could be out for half the season.

Connor
The 49ers have yet to add any veteran help, but they have been looking. The team showed interest in free agent Brandon Spikes before he signed with Buffalo. Spikes’ price tag was too big for the 49ers, who are simply looking for some depth and a veteran option in case they must turn to one. The 49ers like Michael Wilhoite, who spelled inside linebacker Patrick Willis successfully for a short period last season, and second-year player Nick Moody. CSN Bay Area reported this week that the 49ers are still exploring the veteran market.

Perhaps one reason why the 49ers haven’t signed anyone is that there are not a lot of great options.

Here are some names that could potentially interest the 49ers: Desmond Bishop, Dan Connor, Jonathan Vilma, Paris Lenon, Larry Grant, Nick Barnett, Bryan Kehl and Larry Foote. Bishop and Kehl are coming off torn ACLs themselves, and players like Vilma, Barnett and Foote are at the end of their careers.

The bright side for the 49ers is they don’t need much from any addition. They are just looking for depth options.

'NaVorro Bowman Rule' passes

March, 26, 2014
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The "NaVorro Bowman Rule" has passed.

NFL owners passed a new rule that will expand replays to include the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play. The previous rule was that such plays were not reviewable to keep officials from reviewing routine post-fumble scrums. This sort of play was a crucial one in the 49ers NFC Championship game loss at Seattle in January. Bowman appeared to have stripped the ball during the play at the goal line in the fourth quarter at Seattle.

The play was not reviewed and Bowman tore his ACL on the play. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh called the lack of a review on the play a "loophole." Yes, the 49ers voted to pass the rule.

As for Bowman’s recovery, Harbaugh offered reporters in Orlando an update.

“(49ers’ general manger Baalke) Trent talked to him last Wednesday and he’s doing really good, according to Trent. Also talked to Drew Rosenhaus (Bowman’s agent) just the other day here and apparently NaVorro is doing really well, which is no surprise because he’s such a tremendous athlete you just knew if anybody would be doing really well at this point it’d be him.”

In February, Harbaugh said the 49ers are prepared for Bowman to be out for up to half of the 2014 season.
When Marcus Lattimore suffered the second devastating knee injury of his college career, he knew it would be life altering.

Lattimore
Lattimore
However, the former South Carolina star running back had no clue it could have a positive impact.

Lattimore tore the three major ligaments in his knee in October 2012. Earlier in his college career, Lattimore tore the ACL in his other knee. He readily admits that he thought his football playing days were over when he was being carted off the field after the second injury.

Six months later, however, the San Francisco 49ers took Lattimore -- widely considered the best running back in the country -- in the fourth round of the draft. The 2013 season was essentially a redshirt season. The team expects Lattimore to be a contributor in 2014.

“Whatever role they want me to do, I’m ready,” Lattimore said Saturday in a phone interview from Columbus, Ohio, where he is working with EAS Sports Nutrition. "The rehab is over.”

As Lattimore, who looked good in a three-week practice window late last season, prepares to embark on his NFL career, he is reflective about his exhaustive, intense recovery.

“Really, the whole experience has been a blessing,” Lattimore said. “It is making a good thing out of a bad thing.”

Lattimore said EA has helped him with his nutrition and overall physical health. He said he is a bigger, healthy, smarter athlete now. Lattimore said the injury also has helped him spiritually.

Lattimore has spoken at several recovery seminars and he has been in touch with many people, athletes and non-athletes, who are recovering from injuries.

“I get so many emails from people who are recovering, whether it’s from a knee or a shoulder surgery,” Lattimore said. “They are just everyday people. If I can inspire them, I will. Again, it’s making the best out of this situation.”

Lattimore said he is going to be there for 49ers star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman as he recovers from a torn ACL and MCL he suffered in the NFC title game in January. The two have been in touch since Bowman’s injury.

“NaVorro is a warrior; he is going to be just fine,” Lattimore said. “I’ve talked to people who have seen him, and they say he is doing great.”
Hearing that star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman might miss half the season because of his torn ACL was certainly interesting news Thursday.

However, it shouldn't be shocking. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said while he wouldn't count Bowman out for Week 1, midway through the season is more realistic. Harbaugh is simply being cautious and showing that Bowman will not be rushed back. It's the right approach.

Bowman hasn't suffered a setback. The normal ACL recovery time is 6-9 months from the time of surgery. Bowman had surgery Feb. 2 so the second half of the season would be the right target date.

The 49ers have experience with starting a season without a key player. Receiver Michael Crabtree missed the first 11 games of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered in May. The 49ers offense badly missed Crabtree.

I think the team will handle this situation better. They are deep on defense and Bowman will not miss as much time.

Michael Wilhoite did a nice job while playing for an injured Patrick Willis for a short time last season. He will likely get the first crack at replacing Bowman, although I could see the team adding a veteran to provide options and depth while the team waits for Bowman's return.
Hearing that star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman might miss half the season because of his torn ACL was certainly interesting news Thursday.

However, it shouldn't be shocking. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said while he wouldn't count Bowman out for Week 1, midway through the season is more realistic. Harbaugh is simply being cautious and showing that Bowman will not be rushed back. It's the right approach.

Bowman hasn't suffered a setback. The normal ACL recovery time is 6-9 months from the time of surgery. Bowman had surgery Feb. 2 so the second half of the season would be the right target date.

The 49ers have experience with starting a season without a key player. Receiver Michael Crabtree missed the first 11 games of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered in May. The 49ers offense badly missed Crabtree.

I think the team will handle this situation better. They are deep on defense and Bowman will not miss as much time.

Michael Wilhoite did a nice job while playing for an injured Patrick Willis for a short time last season. He will likely get the first crack at replacing Bowman, although I could see the team adding a veteran to provide options and depth while the team waits for Bowman's return.

Jim Harbaugh combine nuggets

February, 20, 2014
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I am not at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, but I was able to listen to Jim Harbaugh’s press briefing on the podium, and then in a more informal setting afterward. Here are some tidbits:

Harbaugh said defensive lineman Tank Carradine recently had a knee surgery to clean up a mass on his knee. He missed all of last season as he recovered from a 2012 torn ACL. The second-round pick is expected to contribute this season.

“He wasn’t able to straighten out his leg before that, and then they took that [mass] out and his leg went straight,” Harbaugh said. “He looks like a different guy now since that procedure ... I think he’s going to have a great offseason and look forward to his progress very, very much.”

Harbaugh said his brother in-law, Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, recently showed the video of NaVorro Bowman stripping the ball despite tearing the ACL in his knee in the NFC title game to his team as inspiration.

Harbaugh told reporters what he has said before: re-signing receiver Anquan Boldin is a top priority.

Harbaugh didn’t appear to want to discuss the Jonathan Martin bullying case in Miami. He was interviewed as part of the Wells report. Like he stated in the report, Harbaugh said Thursday that he thinks Martin can have a successful NFL career. Martin played for Harbaugh at Stanford.

Harbaugh said he respected the honesty of Missouri pass-rusher Michael Sam, who announced this month that he is gay. Sam could become the first openly gay NFL player.

When asked whether he thinks Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel can be a star, Harbaugh said yes. He recruited Manziel while at Stanford.

Harbaugh reminisced about his combine interview with quarterback Colin Kaepernick three years ago. Harbaugh said Kaepernick “lit up the room.” The 49ers traded up to get him in the second round.

MVP replacements: San Francisco 49ers 

February, 7, 2014
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Whether it's a marquee QB or an interior defensive lineman, no team can afford to lose its most valuable player.

So, who steps in if the unfathomable happens? Our NFL Nation reporters and Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl have teamed up to identify each team's most important player and which player in the 2014 draft each team can target to groom as a potential replacement -- MVP insurance. For some teams, their future stars may be slightly younger than others as draft-eligible non-seniors are denoted with an asterisk.

Bowman
Wondering how they might have to replace perhaps their best player is a literal exercise for the San Francisco 49ers.

In a crushing side story to a last-second loss against NFC West rival Seattle in the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco saw star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman go down with a devastating knee injury in the fourth quarter.

Bowman suffered a major ACL and a MCL injury in his left knee. He is expected to have surgery in the coming weeks. Bowman and the 49ers are confident he will be able to play next season. However, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said, at this point, there is no way to be sure he will be ready for Week 1.

In the worst-case scenario, Bowman -- a dominant playmaker who is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate -- will miss a few games. Also, it is fair to wonder how long it will take him to get back into form.

There is little doubt Bowman will become a dominant player again, but the 49ers might have to live without him for a while. He is such a special player and such a great fit for this stout, aggressive defense, the 49ers would have a hole without Bowman in the lineup.

If the 49ers would have beaten Seattle, Michael Wilhoite would have taken Bowman’s spot. Wilhoite, a special teams ace, spelled fellow inside linebacker Patrick Willis in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense for a short time this season when Willis was dealing with a hamstring injury. Wilhoite did well, and many scouts think he can be a starter.

But he’s not at Bowman’s level. Few players are.

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